Show of the Week: Stormy

Stormy (Source: Blue Ant Media)

Stormy Daniels became a household name in 2018 after news broke about a secret payment from former US president Donald Trump. Yet while much has been written about the mother, artist and advocate, this new documentary turns to the woman herself to delve deeper into the impact of those events on her life.

While other shows have grappled to define Daniels, Stormy is a captivating and unvarnished documentary that tells the truth about an unlikely American icon in her own words.

With exclusive access to the woman at the heart of the controversy, the show (available as a 1 x 120 minute or 2 x 60 minute) explores Daniels’ place in American history and takes the audience behind the curtain to explore how she is looking to reinvent herself while dealing with the events of five years ago.

“I first met Stormy in 2019 on the set of a comedy project,” explains the show’s director, Sarah Gibson, who was behind Netflix’s recent hit Britney vs Spears. “She was cracking jokes, she was on time, she nailed her lines in 20 minutes. She and I were two of the few women on set, so we really connected.

“And then when she left our set and was stopped by border protections going into Canada – she was texting me saying: ‘The FBI has a record of 17 bogus charges on my record and they won’t let me into Canada!'”

From that initial contact, Gibson became “texting pals” and found out more about Daniels’ life and the treatment she faced.
“Stormy was not getting an equal representation in the justice system. I’ve always been an activist. If I see something that’s not fair, I get obsessed and think, I’m going to be the one to tell the story since no one’s telling it loud enough,” Gibson says, but found the going tough until Trump was indicted.

“So instead, we were making this film about Stormy reinventing her life and we were already filming with her for a year. And then the indictment happened and everything changed in the film and the story.

“It felt like now that Trump was charged, maybe he would be so busy with these other legal problems, he wouldn’t try and sue us for making a documentary about what happened with Stormy. Stormy was open to it, but she didn’t feel safe giving up full editorial control until Judd Apatow signed on,” Gibson explains.

Stormy (Source: Blue Ant Studios)

Apatow, who had known Daniels for 25 years, had met the actress while filming movies including Knocked Up and 40-Year-Old Virgin.

“She was always really fun to collaborate with and professional,” Apatow says. “She told us about what happened with Donald Trump on the set 18 years ago, so when it was reported in the news six years ago, we all knew it was true.”

Ultimately, Gibson adds, the show’s creation was made possible by “a constellation of kindred spirits”.

She adds: “We all wanted to get behind her and tell her story with the hopes that this was an opportunity for her to live safely in this country with her daughter.”

And while much has been written about Daniels, the film delves into just how much her life fell apart in the aftermath and the impact that being a former porn star had on her life – from hiring Michael Avenatti as her lawyer to owing $600,000 after losing a defamation suit against Trump that she did not know had been filed.

“She’s really been thrown to the wolves and is just doing her best to survive and earn a living and keep her career going that she fought so hard to have,” Gibson says.

“People don’t know that she travels the world to speak at universities and is treated far better overseas than at home. Our observation is that people in Europe don’t seem to have the same hangups about her being from the adult film world and don’t believe that her occupation makes her untrustworthy as a witness.”

Lilla Hurst, Blue Ant’s global head of acquisitions & content strategy, adds that the show provides “an inside look with exclusive access into a David and Goliath battle and the consequences of being the voice of dissent against someone with ultimate power, a standing president.”

Hurst adds: “Audiences will see history through a new lens and walk away with an entirely different perspective about this resilient, brave woman who stands up for herself and her family.”

For Daniels, the doc is an opportunity to “get her story out there in a louder way,” Gibson continues. “It is very important to her that her daughter understands the facts about what happened so if anything should happen to her, she knows what she and her family went through in the aftermath of the story breaking.”

For viewers outside of the US, the appeal is clear. “Nobody really thinks about the lives that are upended inside headlines of a salacious news story like this. Stormy is relatable because she’s complicated and she’s not just one archetype.

“She’s an artist, a mother, dancer, a filmmaker, a writer, an athlete, she’s all these things. And she fought her way out of poverty, neglect and abuse and has made something of her life by working hard. That’s the American dream. That’s relatable.”

Hurst adds: “Stormy provides both the background and exclusive access to a central figure in a historic trial that is happening now. It’s ultimately a story about exploitation and abuse and the people who took advantage of her and tried to diminish her. It’s a microcosm of what is happening to women everywhere.”

Producer: Imagine Documentaries
Distributor: Blue Ant Studios
Streamer: Peacock
Logline: STORMY tells the unvarnished truth about an unlikely American icon – this time, in her own words.

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